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Daily View: Nick Clegg's party speech reviewed

Clare Spencer | 09:20 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Nick Clegg


Commentators give their marks for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's speech at his party's conference.

In his assessment of the speech Quentin Letts asks in the Daily Mail if Nick Clegg was a little too pleased with himself:

"There was something in his manner yesterday that suggested he thinks the Government is leaping to his orders like some sort of zoo sealion. He practically claimed all the credit for getting rid of ID cards, even though that was a firm Tory promise.
"Smug would be an unkind word but nor could one call him modest. He kept telling us how brave he had been. I'd have found that easier to swallow if the Lib Dems had not, for years, been a party of ever louder demands for state spending."

Mary Riddell says in the Telegraph that Nick Clegg has changed over the last year, along with his policies:

"Mr Clegg is no poodle. His speech to the Lib Dem conference sealed a skilfully plotted journey from margins to mainstream.
"Mr Clegg had no explanation, however, for the policy pirouettes that had deposited him in the same economic kennel as the Tories. While he was right to claim, in a defensive and uneasy address, that he had scant option but to join forces with Mr Cameron, the more sour passages confirmed how little he would like to have been chained to the Labour doghouse."

In the Guardian Polly Toynbee expresses caution about Nick Clegg, who she says has managed to persuade his party that the coalition is the only option:

"Here was a leader at the top of his game - but this may be is as good as it gets. He cajoled and persuaded, certain of that old girl TINA - There Is No Alternative. This coalition and these spending cuts are 'the right government for right now', promising his party, 'hold your nerve and we will have changed Britain for good'.
"Who does he remind you of? Could it be Tony Blair in the Iraq war debate and other times when he hauled his doubting party round to believe that same There is No Alternative?"

Rachel Sylvester predicts in the Times [subscription required] that while Mr Clegg may have reassured his members yesterday, it's Vince Cable who will delight them:

"Just as Gordon Brown traditionally used his platform moment to set up a contrast between him and Tony Blair ('real Labour' versus 'new Labour') so Dr Cable will showcase a different attitude to the coalition. Although he has no disloyal intentions - as Mr Brown did, of course - it is a neat coincidence that the Business Secretary is scheduled to appear in the slot usually taken by the leader because Mr Clegg will be at the UN Summit in New York. His aim is, as one ally puts it, to send the activists off 'with a song in their hearts'."

Steve Richards says in the Independent that Mr Clegg "captured the nervy mood of his conference perfectly" but the real test is next year:

"Post-election conferences are a poor guide to what will follow. After the 2005 election Charles Kennedy was leader of the Lib Dems and planned to be so for some time to come. Tony Blair was Prime Minister and had not indicated precisely when he would stand down. Michael Howard was leading the Conservatives as they prepared to elect a successor. The Liberal Democrats' conference next year, after the referendum on electoral reform, local elections and the first round of cuts, will be much more of a test for a leader who is confident he is making the right moves and for a party which is less sure."

Links in full

Quentin Letts | Daily Mail | Smug would be unkind, but one cannot call Clegg modest
Mary Riddell | Telegraph | Liberal Democrat Conference: Clegg must prove that he has not sold his party's soul for power
Polly Toynbee | Guardian | Clegg talks pure Cameronomics
Rachel Sylvester | Times | Nick reassures, but Vince will delight them
Steve Richards | Independent | Power silences the doubters - for now

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